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Permit denied for Santa Rita Valley Ag cannabis cultivation project west of Buellton

Permit denied for Santa Rita Valley Ag cannabis cultivation project west of Buellton

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Santa Rita Valley Ag cannabis cultivation denied

An aerial view shows the approximate location of Santa Rita Valley Ag Inc.'s proposed cannabis cultivation site on Highway 246 west of Buellton that was denied Tuesday by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. Pence Vineyards & Winery is located diagonally across the highway. 

A land use permit for a cannabis cultivation operation about 2½ miles west of Buellton was denied Tuesday by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, which declined to rule on an appeal of a previously approved permit.

Supervisors unanimously denied the permit application of Santa Rita Valley Ag solely because the company had not secured approval from the property owner after the lease on the site expired earlier this year.

Marc Chytilo, attorney for Blair Pence, who appealed the project twice, asked the board to approve the latest appeal at the same time.

But County Planning and Development Department Director Lisa Plowman said the staff could not make the findings necessary to uphold the appeal, so the recommendation was only for the board to deny the project permit.

The decision came at the end of a long, winding path through permit approvals for two sizes of project, appeals of those permits and a series of postponed hearings before the Board of Supervisors.

Santa Rita Valley Ag initially applied to grow cannabis on 37 acres of a 42.5-acre parcel zoned AG-2-100 at 7680 W. Highway 246 outside Buellton, and a land use permit for the project was approved by the planning director in early May 2019.

The company planned to have the cannabis processed elsewhere and employ four to five workers except during harvest, when the crew would expand to 40 to 50 people.

New screening and landscaping was also planned, according to County Planning and Development Department documents.

The land use permit was appealed by Pence, owner of Pence Vineyards & Winery, whose property lies about 250 feet across the highway from the parcel where Santa Rita Valley Ag proposed to grow cannabis.

In his appeal, Pence cited more than seven issues based on alleged inadequacy of the environmental assessments, inadequacy of measures to mitigate various impacts and lack of compliance with county procedures and various county plans.

That appeal was rejected in November 2019 by the Planning Commission, which gave Santa Rita Valley Ag a de novo permit to grow cannabis on 12.75 acres of the property.

Pence subsequently appealed that decision to the Board of Supervisors, and Santa Rita Valley Ag asked the board to approve an increase in the size of the grow to 32 acres as part of the appeal review.

Supervisors were initially scheduled to hear the appeal in March, but both Pence and Santa Rita Valley Ag asked to delay the hearing until April 21 because they were negotiating over the project.

Four days before the scheduled April hearing, Santa Rita Valley Ag asked to have its permit application withdrawn, then two days later rescinded that request.

The following day, the Planning and Development Department asked to delay the hearing until May 5 to meet time requirements for notifying the public of the applicant’s latest request.

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